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Ch. 1: The Feeling of Knowing 
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What I was getting at, and on which I would welcome dialogue, is that Burton seems to be arguing that deficiencies within the feeling of certainty produce an epistemological relativism, whereby he implies that the sense of certainty about subjective states is equivalent to objective knowledge.



I think what Burton is really saying that the feeling of knowing is a defensive mechanism that prevents total uncertainty. It elicits the same type of response you would get from outracing an opponent, yet it is used to provide will. Without certainty a person would not be capable of anything, without the feeling of knowing there would be nothing telling the person that their impulse is correct and they should defend their conscious decision despite or in addition to the true nature of the input, and the reality of the situation.
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Sun Sep 21, 2008 7:39 pm
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DWill:
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The feeling of knowing applies both to simple mental calculations such as 2 + 2 and to complex personal belief systems. It is in play when a close friend dies and we still feel his presence despite our knowing he's gone.


It makes sense to me that Burton would group both seemingly provable "facts" like 2+2=4 and personal beliefs together. I think his demonstration of the feeling of knowing, with the odd paragraph that only makes sense in light of the word kite, shows that the "feeling" is the same for both opinion and evidence based information that we know.

Grim:
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I think what Burton is really saying that the feeling of knowing is a defensive mechanism that prevents total uncertainty....Without certainty a person would not be capable of anything, without the feeling of knowing there would be nothing telling the person that their impulse is correct and they should defend their conscious decision...


I also think this is precisely what Burton is saying and it is his justification for the evolutionary existence of the feeling of knowing.


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Thu Oct 02, 2008 4:36 pm
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Saffron wrote:
I also think this is precisely what Burton is saying and it is his justification for the evolutionary existence of the feeling of knowing.

I don't remember where he says it, but the feeling of knowing also serves to override our thinking mind situated more in our cortex. Burton believes that without such a feeling, we might tend to get stuck in indecision. For survival purposes, the first requirement is that we do something, and the feeling of knowing gives us the impetus to act.



Fri Oct 03, 2008 7:34 am
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Saffron wrote:
It makes sense to me that Burton would group both seemingly provable "facts" like 2+2=4 and personal beliefs together. I think his demonstration of the feeling of knowing, with the odd paragraph that only makes sense in light of the word kite, shows that the "feeling" is the same for both opinion and evidence based information that we know.
This is an extremely discomforting suggestion. If mathematics only has the same status as subjective feelings, how can we possibly claim to know anything at all? Traditional philosophy has a hierarchy of reliability of impressions, from false belief, through well founded belief, to scientific and mathematical knowledge. The trouble with Burton's claim is that we do possess scientific knowledge. For example in astronomy, the celebrated 1919 proof by Eddington that Einstein's prediction about bending light could only have happened if Einstein's theory was an accurate description of objective reality



Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:24 am
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Robert Tulip wrote:
This is an extremely discomforting suggestion. If mathematics only has the same status as subjective feelings, how can we possibly claim to know anything at all?


Robert,
I don't think that Burton is saying we can't know anything; although I'm not very far in the book yet. I feel certain that Burton is not saying that mathematics and opinion (subjective) have the same status or are the same creatures. The point he's making is the feeling or sense of knowing that you've got it "right" is the same regardless of whether it is a "fact" like a mathematical equation or an idea, opinion, or subjective feeling. This is an astonishing idea. And, if true very important. I would bet that at some point in the book he will say that it is not the feeling that should tell you something is correct or not. Since the feeling comes regardless of whether there is evidence to support our sense of rightness, it seems that he will have to say that we must or are even obligated to rely on other means (fact checking, evidence, logic, etc...) to verify what we feel (believe) to be correct or right.


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Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:37 am
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Heidegger was widely interpreted as saying that truth is subjective, but his point was rather that truth should be integrated with life, and cannot be a pure abstract idea. Such an integrated vision of truth still has room for objective certainty. Burton seems to want a similar integration of truth and life, except that his radical skepticism about any knowledge claims seems to deny any human access to truth of the type claimed by Einstein.


I don't claim to know enough Heidegger (does anyone?), but I think that Heidegger was making the case that we can never know the whole truth. Our brains can not hold all the information equally at the same moment in time to comprehend the "truth" of anything. The very process of turning our attention and focusing excludes some aspect (I could use the word characteristic or quality or variable here in the place of aspect) of the truth or falsely emphasizes one aspect of a thing (to include anything one is examining - a mathematical formula, a table, an idea, etc...)over other aspects.

In away I think Burton is getting at a similar idea. Truth, knowledge, knowing is a slippery fish and maybe the most important first step in getting a hold of it is to understand the limitations of a human brain in knowing a truth. I think even Einstein would agree.

You know, the old adage: The more I know the more I realize I don't know.


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Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:19 am
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Truth, knowledge, knowing is a slippery fish and maybe the most important first step in getting a hold of it is to understand the limitations of a human brain in knowing a truth. I think even Einstein would agree.

Woohoo! The second step is the integration of electronic circuits into our brain that allow us to spread our immediate focus over a broad range of data.

That's a cheater's answer though, huh? I think that our exercises in philosophy build somewhat of a pyramid of concepts, with higher complexity elements being summaries(combined then refined) of lower complexity elements. There is information lost by refining an idea, we couldn't contain it all otherwise, so the whole truth can't be reached internally.

There is most definitely something to be said about transcribing thoughts to objective material; computer, paper, chalkboard. We can then transcribe what we're only focusing on at the moment, yet cover the entire subject matter over time with enough brains. Perhaps Heidegger underestimated this idea?



Fri Oct 03, 2008 2:04 pm
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Interbane wrote:
There is most definitely something to be said about transcribing thoughts to objective material; computer, paper, chalkboard. We can then transcribe what we're only focusing on at the moment, yet cover the entire subject matter over time with enough brains. Perhaps Heidegger underestimated this idea?


I don't think Heidegger underestimated. I think a single truth is hard to come to, maybe most of the time all we can do is get really, really close.


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Fri Oct 03, 2008 4:51 pm
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Th difference of interest to me is now how the feeling of knowing varies relating it to something I have done or am doing compared to feeling knowing as an observer. Definitely only a small :laugh: half of the whole truth.

I suppose that the only real difference would be a better self-explanation than an observed presupposition. In this way the feeling of knowing would be dependent on objective circumstances, in balance with current emotions.

In terms of definition, the certainty you hold about your own action has not really been compared against the feelings you obtain through the actions of others.

Which is more practical in terms of generalization, the feelings of self or your awareness of others?

A definite 3rd person limited observer dilemma, narrating yet not knowing everything which you feel you should.



Last edited by Grim on Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:33 pm
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Saffron wrote:
I don't think that Burton is saying we can't know anything; although I'm not very far in the book yet. I feel certain that Burton is not saying that mathematics and opinion (subjective) have the same status or are the same creatures. The point he's making is the feeling or sense of knowing that you've got it "right" is the same regardless of whether it is a "fact" like a mathematical equation or an idea, opinion, or subjective feeling. This is an astonishing idea. And, if true very important. I would bet that at some point in the book he will say that it is not the feeling that should tell you something is correct or not. Since the feeling comes regardless of whether there is evidence to support our sense of rightness, it seems that he will have to say that we must or are even obligated to rely on other means (fact checking, evidence, logic, etc...) to verify what we feel (believe) to be correct or right.

Saffron's "certainty" is correct, by my reading. Burton accords full respect to verifiable ideas such as Einstein's that Robert cites. He doesn't deny knowledge. He only says that the feeling of knowing we have is subjective, of course. That feeling of knowing itself has no relation to factuality or rightness as judged objectively. We don't know unless we test our conclusions, just as Einstein did. The feeling of knowing is necessary for us emotionally and was important evolutionarily, but it causes a certain amount of mischief, which Burton details.
DWill



Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:19 pm
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Well, so far I love this book! Sorry I'm so late to the game. Thanks for lending your book DW.



Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:23 pm
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